Sightless eyes gazed into the clear November sky. With the passing of life, the ability to reflect the light of the full moon riding high overhead had also departed. He was a big whitetail, in the prime of his life. Now he was a recently killed carcase on the side of a seldom used state highway that paralleled Interstate 59, in west Alabama.
The tall, lean, man, dressed in faded jeans, and a white, open-necked, long sleeved shirt that appeared to be made of Egyptian cotton, stepped from his Jeep and walked past the new black Ford Navigator, that was almost at a right angle to the highway it had been weaving down before it dropped off the pavement and hit the buck.
Smoke was curling out from under the hood of the big SUV and a number of warning lights were flashing and at least three alarms were screaming warnings. As the tall man approached, the Navigator the driver, slightly dazed after striking his head against the steering wheel, saw him in the rear view mirror. “Thank, God,” he exclaimed, “I was afraid no one would find me. Thanks for stopping….” His voice trailed away into the gloom of early evening, as the tall man walked past his vehicle without speaking or stopping.
The driver of the Navigator watched the man in the dim light of the SUVs one remaining headlight. He walked straight to the deer, stood beside it for moment, and then knelt beside the animal’s head. It was hard to be sure, but it looked like the man’s lips moved, but the driver could have been mistaken about that. A moment later, the almost drunk SUV driver regained all of his faculties, when the man stood, looked down at the buck, and this time clearly said something. Then the deer’s head snapped up, shook slightly, and the animal gathered his legs under his body and stood.
For a moment, a moment that was forever etched into the drivers memory, the tall man reached out and laid his hand on the buck’s shoulder, spoke again, and then dropped his hand. The buck turned, looked at at the man, snorted, shook his head, and in two bounds, cleared the highway and disappeared in the deep shadows of the trees on the opposite side of the road.
The tall man stood motionless for a moment, listening to the sounds of the buck crashing through the underbrush. When all sound of the deer’s passing had faded the man turned back toward the SUV. As he approached the drivers window, the man, in an ill disguised, aggravated tone said, “It’s about fucking time. I need help.”
Without pausing, the tall man, in a low and very clear voice, said, “I’ve already helped. Weren’t you watching?”
For a moment, the man couldn’t believe he was being abandoned. Then he got it and screamed, “But what about me?”
The reply that drifted back to him was as soft as the first statement, but clearly audible. “You’ll figure it out, and if you don’t, you’ll die.”
An instant later the Jeep cranked, pulled out to clear the Navigator, then moved smoothly away, east bound.
The Jeep wasn’t old or new. It was ageless, like Ben Jenkins, the man who drove it effortless through the pre-holiday traffic on the beltway that circles Washington, D.C. Ben had never been in D.C., yet there was no sign of wonder about him. The look on his face, etched by the dim lights of the instruments and the headlights of oncoming traffic, could only be described as intent-on purpose.
That had been his dominate expression since the he’d received the strange phone call. The call summons him from his isolated cabin on the Pearl River in South Mississippi, to an equally isolated cabin in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
His caller, a man he had never met but felt he knew well, was probably the only person on earth who could summons him to a meeting, twelve hundred miles away from the home he hadn’t been more than twenty miles away from, in over ten years.
Joseph Crenshaw Sanders, simply Sand, to all who knew him and to the millions who had only heard of him, knew him as a figure on their TV, or a voice on their radio, stared into the fireplace, as the flames cast shapes and shadows on the walls of his spacious cabin, now lit only by the fire and the trembling light of a half dozen hand-dipped candles strategically placed around the room.
His long legs rested on the rough hewn coffee table. His upper body was half-encased in the center section of the old, curved, sofa in front of the fireplace. Had his eyes been closed, you would have thought he was sound asleep. He wasn’t.
His eyes never blinked as they reflected the jumping light of the fire. Behind his eyes, he was thinking of the three phone calls he had placed almost forty-eight hours before. Three calls he knew could change the destiny of the planet. Three calls that he knew were his last, best shot, at halting the final suicidal rush of mankind.
Actually the calls Sand had made weren’t calls at all, they were summons. Summons to three people he had never met. However, in spite of that, each summons had been accepted and even now the recipients of the calls were on the way to his cabin.
His trance-like appearance was broken when a small grin touched his lips and a flash appeared in his eyes that wasn’t generated by the firelight. He was excited, or as close to being excited as he allowed himself to be, at the prospect of working with the three, in spite of the fact that he knew that no matter how it went, it would be the last work he would do in this incarnation.
His three guests were each driving and traveling alone. They had told no one where they were going. They couldn’t share the purpose of their trip. None of them knew that. Only Sand knew why they were coming to his home.
Miller Hamilton was traveling the farthest. Miller lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Few people knew Miller and those who did, had no idea where he was or what he had been doing for the past twenty odd years. Sand knew. He had made a point of knowing and with equal tenacity he made sure Miller did not know his interest.
In the sixties, when it was popular to attempt to raise one’s consciousness, Miller had written a book. His book went far beyond the pop psychology of the day. It explored the possibility of living without limits: physical, mental, or any other. Miller’s book was too far ahead of its time, in a time that was already too far ahead of itself. The coldness of the book’s reception prompted Miller to isolate himself in the Sandia Mountains just outside Albuquerque. His original objective had two parts: first to prove that everything he had written could be done and second, take the proof back to his critics.
Sand knew that in the years of his isolation, Miller had manifested his theories as the reality of his life. In the process he had transcended many of the so called scientific laws of the times. In so doing, Miller had reached a point where he no desire or need to take his proof to the world. In fact, Miller Hamilton had never even hinted publicly or privately of his accomplishments. Sand alone knew what Miller had done and when he disclosed that knowledge to the philosopher turned recluse, Miller instantly agreed to the trip.
Barbara Rodriguez wasn’t a recluse. She made the nightly news regularly as the psychic of the stars and the movers and shakers on the planet. Her clients ranged from corporate leaders to pop stars, and included more than a few of Washington’s most powerful politicians. Barbara was a woman of wealth, influence, and power. Yet, twenty minutes after she talked to Sand, who somehow had called on her most private, personal phone line, she left her Fort Lauderdale beach home and began a hard drive through the early fall chill of the northeast, totally focused on her destination, the Green Mountains of Vermont.
As Sand thought of the psychic she was driving through Virginia, just north of D.C., alone in her Rolls Royce, rediscovering the skill of driving the automobile that was normally driven by her chauffeur.
After stopping to help the dead deer, Ben Jenkins, the recipient of Sand’s third call, was back on the road. Though he didn’t know it, he was six hours behind Barbara and ten hours ahead of Miller. None of them knew the other. Their only connection was a phone call from Joseph Crenshaw Sanders, a man none of them had ever met.